Help Children Build Arm Strength & Balance with Tree Climbing (Age 5-7)
Tree climbing can offer numerous benefits to children:
- Building Strength: Climbing demands robust arm and hand strength. This means grasping handholds, whether they’re branches, rock structures, or monkey bars, and pulling yourselves up.
- Enhancing Balance: It’s about learning to stabilize on handholds and synchronize hand-foot movements as you shift across them.
- Developing Judgment: There are risks in climbing. Recognizing the reliability of handholds, your distance from the ground, and understanding your capabilities are essential. This leads to making safety decisions. If a mistake happens, knowing how to land safely becomes crucial.
- Problem Solving: Which handhold is next? Where should the feet go? How do you navigate obstacles? These are questions children learn to answer as they climb.
Our Parenting Perspective
Visit any park with toddlers and pre-schoolers, and you’ll often hear, “Don’t do that.” We’ve observed parents telling kids not to jump off a table barely 3 feet high, not to use knives, climb trees, dig in the mud, or run too quickly. Decades ago, we played outside with our friends, no parents watching over us. Nowadays, we tend to hover over our children, letting our fears and anxieties affect them.
We suggest a different approach. Let kids be kids. Encourage them to jump, climb, and even fall. The key is to prevent lasting harm. Anything less teaches them valuable lessons, allowing them to discover and grow.
If we’re worried, we should invest time and effort to teach them how to manage situations. Start by showing toddlers how to cut soft fruits like bananas with dull knives. Each year, gradually introduce more challenges.
Introducing Sabi to Tree Climbing
Sabi’s fascination with tree houses started with cartoons like ‘Curious George’. It grew after she watched ‘The Legend of Hanuman’.
Showing the Possibility: We demonstrated how trees can be climbed. We began with simpler trees and had her try them with our assistance.
Choosing the Right Tree: We picked trees with low, evenly spaced branches. The branches were thin enough for Sabi to hold onto, allowing her to hoist herself up.
Safety First: While encouraging tree climbing, we also emphasized the dangers of risky places.
Soon enough, Sabi was climbing basic trees with confidence.
Coaching the Basics of Climbing
We then exposed her to slightly challenging trees — a bit higher off the ground and spaced farther apart.
Initially, the height made her nervous. To counter her fears, we taught her safe falling techniques.
- Always try to fall on hands and legs
- If you do fall on your back, lift your head so it doesn’t bounce off the ground
A few practice falls showed her that minor tumbles weren’t disastrous.
With her anxieties diminished, we guided her on finding balance on branches, letting her sight dictate her movements, assessing a branch’s fragility, and shifting her weight safely.
Independent Tree Climbing Adventures
After mastering basic techniques, Sabi tackled more complex trees. This phase was about self-discovery and learning through exploration.
Tree Climbing in Action
A Peaceful Activity
In October 2022, during our visit to the Jain Temple Town of Palitana, Sabi found a unique tree. After an exhausting trek up the temple’s 3500+ steps, she climbed the tree to unwind.
Sabi relaxing on a tree after a 10,000 step walk on a hot Sunday.
For Sabi, trees also offered a private space to read, ponder, write, or relish quiet moments.
The Gang’s “Hide Out”
Sabi shared her climbing skills with friends, turning trees into their personal hangouts. These became their “chat zones.”
Our colony’s Independence Day: kids watch national plays, meet armed forces members & enjoy festive food.
Sabi dived into the Secret Seven Series by Enid Blyton, a four-book set of mysteries featuring a team of young sleuths who cracked community cases from their HQ in Peter’s backyard. Each book offered a fresh adventure, from finding missing persons to recovering stolen items. With their badges and notebooks, these kids exemplified teamwork, ingenuity, and courage.
The series sparked Sabi’s imagination:
- Secret Hiding Spots: She created secret nooks in our house.
- Treasure Hunts: She hid seashells in the park for her friends to find.
- Secret Meetings: She and her friends held private conversations in a park treehouse.
- Builder Club: Inspired by the series, she founded the Builder Club and awarded badges to her fellow members.
- Moral Lessons: The stories strengthened her resolve to do the right thing, even when her friends didn’t.
One time, while joining me for a coffee shop meet, her inner detective emerged. She spotted a suspicious-looking individual and, just like in the Secret Seven, began scribbling down her observations.
Lately, she has been exploring how to climb near vertical trees.
Tree climbing, along with her Hanuman Gada training, has significantly enhanced Sabi’s arm strength, balance, and flow. Beyond being a beneficial physical activity, it’s become a cherished outdoor pastime for her, offering both relaxation and adventure in the sun.